Courage, Community, Compassion

Today is World Alzheimer’s Day, and I was thinking about courage. There are all kinds of courage, but I was thinking about the time we, my sister and I, had to put our parents into a nursing home. It took the courage of our convictions to do it. My sister didn’t agree at first, and that created some guilt on my part. But she soon realized that I was right. I was also twelve years older than she was.

Courage was cleaning out the apartment. The personal belongings of a parent; papers and things from their desk, going through the closets and the closed drawers. It was heartbreaking to see how little was left inside those closed doors and drawers.

Where were the letters and pictures? Why did Mom throw all of them out? To make it easier for us? To make it easier on the grandchildren who loved them? Dealing with the grandkids took a quiet courage.

And then there was the courage to pull the plug. My father had already died, and my mother had no lungs left. She was on life support, couldn’t talk, we couldn’t get close enough to give her a hug, all we could do was hold her hand. It seemed to me her eyes were pleading for us to let her go. We talked to the lung doctor and there was nothing they were able to do.

Yet, when all is said and done, we know we did the right thing, and yes, it took courage.

When my husband was suddenly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and we had to keep this news a secret because he still worked and they insisted we not say anything. So we didn’t say anything.

It took all my courage tp write my guts out on paper in that secret journal. Who could I talk to except the paper? Seven years later the diagnosis was changed, and I showed my husband that secret journal. He said I had to publish it. It took courage for me to do it. But do it I did, and the rewards are now coming in.

My book, Behind The Mask, shows the courage and also the compassion for the new caregiver. My thoughts are their thoughts. I am so glad I took off my Mask. The comments are so heartwrenching and heartwarming at the same time.

And now since the book came out, I decided that I want everyone to adopt a caregiver. Older people have courage, dreams and wisdom.

I have a vision for the future. Committment to the community we live in. Find a caregiver, give her your support, write her an email, ask how she is doing, and mean it. Tell her/him you can listen, you have compassion and the courage to do this.

Now my courage comes from within myself. I know where I’m going and with everyone’s help my Adopt A Caregiver will be everywhere There are already many people helping me, planting the seeds.

Remember there is nothing to join, no dues to pay, no committment to anyone but yourself.

Support the caregiver, you too have courage, compassion and community within yourself.

Keep love and kisses in your life. Helene

We Adopted Each Other

I spent a large portion of my time today looking over emails I had saved since 1993. When my husband was suddenly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and we were strongly advised by the Alzheimer’s Association and UCI to keep the diagnosis a secret, I felt I had no one to talk to. I didn’t want to burden my kids, I figured they would see it for themselves soon enough, and they had their own families to take care of.

I started looking in the message boards of the Alzheimer’s Association, and for days I just looked and read the messages. Then one day, out of the blue, I saw a message that said, “I need a hug.” Oh God, I thought, I needed a hug too. So I started writing to my new friend.

As I reread most of those messages this afternoon, I realized how much we needed each other, and yes, how much we helped each other. It was a blessing the day she came into my life. I know she feels the same way. We talked through our problems, our tears, and our future, or lack of one. The caregiver is also a victim.

I was the lucky one, seven years later, they changed my husband’s diagnosis, but my friend is still struggling with her life, as her husband is still here. What will happen to her? I wonder. I care.

I published my secret journal, Behind The Mask, and realized my story is every caregivers story. So now, I’m devoting the rest of my life to this new journey. I’d love to wipe away all the caregivers tears. That’s not possible, but it is possible for everyone to Adopt A Caregiver.Every community has caregivers, you can find them with no problem. Ask at church, in your community, find a caregivers group and tell them you want to adopt a caregiver. Tell them about my plan, my book, my journey. Together, one by one, we can make this happen.

Word of mouth is so potent, one person tells one person, and the seed is planted and spreads. Thank you all for your support and help. It is truly amazing what one person can do; with a little bit of help.

I cried today, reading those old emails..I’m still crying for you Bajha. I love you.

Keep love and kisses in you life. Helene

A Small World

As I’ve said, word of mouth is potent, and that is evident as I’m finding out what a small world this is.

One of my books, Behind The Mask, went to someone I know, but she did not know it was me who wrote it. Another lived near me in another state, and we connected. Just think if every one told some one else about Adopt A Caregiver, in no time we would make this a closer and better world. We could wipe away some caregivers tears, not all of them, but some. That would make us all feel good, knowing we helped the caregiver.

Adopt a Caregiver is the subject of my talk tomorrow with the Henderson Senior Center. I’ll let you know about it tomorrow. I expect it will be great, with everyone listening and wanting to help. So far this group has been wonderful and willing to do anything they can to get my adopt a caregiver out there for the world to see and hear.

I’m waiting to hear from the Alzheimer’s Association. I know we can help each other, and they know the caregiver is important as is the patient.

Now I’m having some trouble with my computer, maybe someone will come to my rescue.

Keep love and kisses in your life. Helene